With another step completed toward restoring on-Island health care access for veterans, members of the Providence VA hospital are planning an on-Island trip for early October for a town hall meeting with veterans and discussions with Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

This week came word that the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital had signed a new contract for veterans’ health care; the last remaining step is contract approval from the Providence VA Medical Center.

The previous contract between the VA and Martha’s Vineyard Hospital lapsed several years ago, requiring Island veterans to go off-Island for most health care. After delays, Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C. signed the contract about two weeks ago.

Providence VA spokesman Tom Antonaccio said the contract has been passed to the hospital’s contracting department, and he anticipated that the contract should be awarded by the end of the month. Once awarded, the hospital has up to 30 days to execute the contract. The hospital has told the Gazette that they anticipate being able to execute the contract fairly quickly after it is awarded.

A conference call between the Providence VA staff and representatives of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is planned for next week, he said, to discuss the award date and execution date, and to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Providence staff are planning to be on the Vineyard on Oct. 3 to host a town hall meeting with veterans to go over the details of the new contract, which has some changes from the old contract.

The staff will also meet with hospital leadership to “get everybody on the path to success,” he said. “All the pistons are firing and we have a positive future ahead.”

Cong. William Keating told the Gazette Wednesday that getting the contract out of Washington D.C. was the biggest hurdle, and that he and his staff had been following the issue.

The original agreement contained three separate contracts, including contracts for x-ray and laboratory work along with the main contract, which have now been consolidated into one comprehensive contract. Mr. Keating said this will help expedite the process.

“It was just extremely frustrating,” Mr. Keating said of the delay, adding that the uniqueness of the on-Island contract and added personnel issues impeded the process. “I understand all that, but it’s something we found unacceptable.”

But, he said, he anticipates getting the contract signed “in pretty short order.”